Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Maternal Memories

Though the details are now a bit foggy, one of my earliest childhood memories I can recall is pulling carrots with my grandma in her garden. I must have been about 3 or 4, and although she planted a garden annually, she was a city dweller so the fruits of her labor dotted various beds and plots around her neighborhood home. I remember a sense of wonder as together we gripped the green lacy tops just above the soil line, and heaved with as much effort as I could offer, staggering to unearth a bright orange root - a recognizable vegetable - that just moments before was totally concealed. It took convincing to persuade me to only pick what was needed, as I would have delighted in reliving that excitement over and over again, clearing every last carrot out of the ground - one at a time. 

Beyond the bottomless coffee can filled with home made sugar cookies that adorned the kitchen counter top or the fresh cinnamon rolls that just happened to come out of the oven as we drove up their driveway, grandma and grandpa’s house was an adventure to be experienced every time. They never catered to us kids, but rather with the patience of a saint, let us experience their daily life of chores when we were there, making every duty magical. From watching the careful selection of a favorite tattered recipe card, from it’s wooden box, or taking in that first deep breath of fresh sawdust, waiting for the clearing of the dusty haze that stirred with the opening of grampa’s wood working shop, we were captivated. 

Stirring the dry ingredients for Easter Bread
My heart is warmed, that my girls have come to know and love this same kind of magic in their Oma. The girls squeal with delight when we say we are going to Oma’s house, knowing that there is always something new to explore just 25 minutes away. Oma has that same air about her that I recall about my grand parents. A level of patience to be reckoned with, she allows each girl to share in every moment without a care in the world. She delivers instruction in the calmest and unwavering of ways, explaining in detail an age appropriate reply to each of their unending questions, while I secretly cringe at each near disaster. 

Cracking the eggs into a bowl so the extra shell can be fished out
dumping the shell-free eggs into the bowl.
Devi is particularly fond of the harvesting vegetables from the garden, and tending the compost pile and all that it entails. Dumping food scraps, adding a shovel full of dirt, stirring it about and even holding the worms that eagerly find this spot home. Quietly, in the back ground, one can hear Oma giving her instruction, how to hold and manage the huge, heavy shovel that dwarfs Devi’s size, never becoming excited when dirt goes flying or when the shovel handle comes within inches of Oma's nose. 

Punching down the dough after the first rise.

Buttering the tops before a second rise and baking
The flower beds are another source of entertainment, as Oma always has several arrangements of whatever happens to be in bloom beautifully displayed throughout her home. Outfitting each girl with a collection basket or bucket, out they go to collect from the flowerbed bounty so that we might have a proper centerpiece at our dining table. Resisting the urge to grab handfuls of blue bells or clear a bed of everything with color, the girls listen as Oma explains that long stalks are required and it is best to clip just one at a time, encouraging the need for some greenery too,  to showcase the delicate blooms. Perfect vases are selected, many of which are the works of Oma herself from her years as a potter, and the girls get to work. Oma operates the snippers and praises their "creative" arrangements, giving suggestion here and there, as together they produce works of natural art.
Before the egg hunt in Oma's back yard

After the egg hunt in Oma's back yard
Oma's kitchen; however, is like heaven where delicious creations just seem to magically happen. This is where Treya feels right at home jumping in with "I do it", "" with every task that is offered. Tradition is learned and passed on in this kitchen with the making of age old recipes like Eierkuchen and Easter Bread. Once again, with the utmost in patience, the girls do the work as Oma explains the significance of each step, occasionally adding her hand of wisdom atop theirs for guidance. Ingredients strewn about, Oma never frets about the mess, saying things like "that's okay" or "never you mind",  just considering it all part of the experience. 

Easter dinner with Easter Bread front and center in the special bread basket

Lastly, the deep and binding thread of family is experienced through the use of treasured dishes like the bowl used for the rising of the dough, or the porcelain bread basket that contains the finished product at our dining table. These material things evoke the stories told and re-told of those, now long since passed away, that hold significant places on the branches of our family tree. Devi always intervenes with a plethora of questions, even though at five, she has heard many of these tales countless times all ready. I guess there is a certain kind of comfort that comes with knowing what is going to be said next. The same kind of steadfast comfort that comes from visiting their Oma. She has captured the hearts of these two children, known to her as her dears, who absolutely adore her.


Miche said...

Awe, I loved this :) What a fun memory to capture on "paper" for later reflection.

Peter and Nancy said...

What a huge blessing to have such a patient, loving Oma. And I love the distinction you make between grandparents who take kids to amusement parks, etc. (not that there's anything wrong with that), and grandparents who show and teach life lessons through their own (sometimes fading) crafts such as baking, gardening and woodworking. Love it!

The Pfeiffer Family said...

What a blessing to have such a wonderful Oma. Your girls are learning so many lessons from their Oma as she loves, teaches, and adores them. Precious memories to last a lifetime.

April :-)